Kaua‘i Remembered for Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In my youth the only vocation for me would be animal husbandry. I was brought up to be a paniolo (cowboy) and enjoyed the work. The daily grind of mending fences and riding the range took on a more exciting change of pace when it came to branding.  

Everyone who owned a few head of pipi (cattle) would have a brand. All brands were registered with the Territory of Hawai‘i and now the State of Hawai‘i. The brand for the Wailua Ranch was W and the brands for Kipu or William Hyde Rice Ltd was WR for pipi and company ilio (horses).

My grandfather Charles Rice branded his polo string with CR. This got to be a sore point with some of the family members when almost all the ilio on the ranch were branded CR.

The main breeding herd WR pipi were at Kipukai and branding was a two-day job. The first day included an hour ride over the mountain from Kipu to Kipukai and then trying to get all the pipi and calves into smaller holding pens for the next day.

Through the middle of the Kipukai valley was a kiawe thicket where the pipi could go but a man on horseback could not get through. Those pipi who would not come out we could usually trap in the corrals when they came for water. The water came from a well and was pumped by a windmill. Sometimes when the makani (winds) were very light or still we would fire up a motor driven pump to fill the troughs.

The next morning the pipi and calves would be herded into the corrals and the pipi separated from the calves. When this was done the fire to heat the brands was lit and when the branding iron was hot the best ropers would rope a calf and drag it away from the other calves while his partner would try to catch it by its two back feet (one foot was sufficient).

Now the ground crew would wrestle the calf to the ground where the calf was branded and if a male he would be castrated. Two brands were used on the calf, one was the WR on the left hip and below it the last digit of that particular year.

When this was done the calf was released and sent back with the rest of the calves. The paniolo were free to look for another calf and so it went until all the calves were branded. The bulls were left with the cows all year long so there were calves of all ages.

One time we had a cow that had twin heifer calves and she found a way through the rock over the mountain to Koloa and the two calves came back with KP or Koloa Plantation on their sides. These calves and their mother were kept in a special little pasture until we could find where she got through and we were able to build a stone wall to stop her.

In 1939 or 1940 my grandfather was in the process of turning a small sugar plantation into a large ranch. He bought a group of yearling heifers from his brother Harold Rice on Maui and had them shipped to Kaua‘i.

This was the start of the large ranch which later became a herd of 500 breeding cows at Kipu. In 1945 the Rice boys sold Kipukai to Jack Waterhouse and all the cattle were driven over the mountain to Kipu. Some never made the trip, always broke back and disappeared into the brush. A couple of young ones were roped and slaughtered at Kipukai and salted into large barrels.

My grandfather would use this meat for the beef stew he cooked after the branding. These Hawaiian paniolo could eat all they could and then take a nap. You would never believe the sound of their snoring.

After an hour they would awaken, grab their throw nets, go fishing, and then get back on their horses and ride back to Kipu. Our family would usually stay a couple of weeks before going back into civilization and then spend the rest of the summer at Koke‘e.

In the 1944 branding at Kipukai there was a small group of Air Force men here on R and R staying with the Wilcox sisters and my grandfather invited them to Kipukai. Not all of them wanted to go on such a long horseback ride so we got five, most of them Mexicans.

After branding and a nap, we decided to go to the beach on the Nawiliwili side of Kipukai to see if there were any wild goats where we could rope them.

The goats were way down by the beach hidden in the kiawe trees. We surrounded the thicket and when the goats panicked one of the Mexican boys on a horse chased a goat and when the goat felt the horse right behind him he jumped into a lantana bush and with one sweep of his hand he had the goat on his saddle with him and a huge smile on his face.

You should have seen the faces on our cowboys! Who do you think taught the Hawaiian people to be paniolo?


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